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BIKE MAKING ODD NOISES?

Your bicycle may need attention

Paying attention to the normal operating sounds from your bicycle is essential for keeping your bicycle in top condition. The first sign that your bicycle needs attention will usually manifest as a new noise: a click, creak, squeak, or groan.

Listen to your bicycle

Listening to your bicycle so that you know what sounds are normal will make identifying new noises easier.  When you first notice a new noise, pay attention to it; listen to its pitch, frequency, and rhythm and try to determine what actions cause the noise.  These are the first steps in identifying the noise’s source and what steps to take to quiet it.
 
New noises that your bicycle makes are usually the first sign that something needs your attention.  Any unusual or new noise should be taken seriously as it may originate from a loose water bottle cage bolt, a dry chain, a loose crank bolt, or a crack forming in your frame.  As a general rule noises that are higher in pitch and softer – harder to hear – can be looked into after your ride while noises that are lower in pitch and relatively louder should be taken very seriously.  If a new noise starts and then gets progressively louder or changes pitch during the ride you should stop riding immediately and determine the cause.

Try to determine the cause of the noise

When a new noise begins, try to isolate what conditions cause the noise and, even better, see if you can create the noise on demand. This will simplify identifying the source. Think about the following:

  • Do I hear the noise when I’m pedaling or coasting or both?
  • Is the noise rhythmic? And if so, does the rhythm’s tempo increase with the speed of the bicycle or the speed of my pedaling?
  • Which gear(s) is the bicycle in when I hear the noise?
  • Is the noise present when I’m standing or sitting on the bike or both?
  • Is the noise present when I start my ride or does it only manifest after a few miles?
  • If the noise is non-rhythmic can I create the noise on smooth pavement by shifting my weight and/or pulling and pushing on the handlebars? Or can I only hear it on rough pavement?
  • What do I have to do to create the noise at will?

Still challenging to diagnose the source?

Unfortunately noises that your bicycle makes are very hard to isolate directionally.  Noises that are coming from the saddle can sound like they are originating from the handlebar.  When riding, all the parts of the bicycle are the same distance away from each of our ears, and because the sound waves are traveling such a short distance our directional sense is often fooled.  Add to that the ability of the sound-causing vibrations to resonate all through your frame and you have a hopeless situation when trying to hear what part of your bike a noise is originating from.  If the noise is loud enough for your riding partner to hear, getting him/her to ride next to you to try to identify where the noise is coming from can be helpful.  Usually it is possible to tell if the noise is coming from the front, middle, or back of someone else’s bicycle.
 
Rhythmic noises that keep time with your pedaling cadence are the most common and very difficult to track down.  Many times this class of noise originates from the crank/bottom bracket area.  However, a rider’s weight will shift from side to side and there is a corresponding push/pull on the handlebars, especially noticeable with a hard pedaling effort.  These secondary forces are frequently responsible for causing rhythmic sounds that come from the saddle, seat post, stem, or wheels and not from the crank where we intuitively expect cadence timed rhythmic sounds to come from.

We're always here to help

If you cannot determine the cause of your bicycle’s new noise and/or need assistance eliminating it, Landry’s Bicycles is here to help.  Coming into the shop with answers to the 7 questions above will help us identify and quiet your mystery noise quicker and get you back out on the road sooner – so you can enjoy the quiet operation of your finely tuned bicycle.
 
– Ken McLean, Landry's operations director
 
Questions?  Contact or visit your local Landry's Service Department for assistance.


More Tech Tips from Landry's

Check out more tips on basic bicycle maintenance to keep you and your bike riding smoothly.